"TWO GREAT LIGHTS" Genesis 1:16

By Ian Potts

“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” Genesis 1:16.

In Genesis 1:16 we read of the two great lights which God created – the Sun and the Moon. Each was created to rule over its own realm – the Sun for the day and the Moon for the night. “And God set them in the firmament to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.”

But were the sun and the moon simply created to provide physical light for day and night? To give light upon the earth?

Well they have that use but there is more to these two great lights than just that - much more. Each has a spiritual meaning. Each were given as “signs” to signify something, as it says in verse 14 “and let them be for signs”. When verse 17 says that they were created to “give light upon the earth” it does not simply mean physical light, but spiritual. Spiritual light is given by what they signify. In fact the sun wasn’t actually needed to provide light physically as there was already light in the day before the sun was created, as we read in verses 3-5 “And God, said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

So it is clear that the sun and the moon which were created on the fourth day were made to give more than just physical light. They were made to give spiritual light (Psalm 19:1-2) – they are signs. Then what do they signify?

The answer may be seen by considering the realm in which each light is created. The sun was created to rule the day. The moon was created to rule the night. Each light rules over its own realm. The sun was not created for the night, neither the moon for the day. The day has no need for the light of the moon as the light of the sun far exceeds it. So each light is for its own realm – they are separate one from the other. They ‘rule’ over their own realm - one over light and one over darkness.

Light and darkness have much spiritual meaning throughout the scriptures. The first chapter of John’s Gospel contrasts the light with the darkness:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
John 1:1-9

Before the coming of Christ the world lay in darkness - spiritual darkness. Having fallen in Adam into sin and death all mankind was full of spiritual darkness. All men had sinned (Romans 3:23), all were blinded to God’s truth by their fallen nature (Ephesians 2:1-3).

But John speaks of that one who was the true Light – the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the world was darkness and death brought in by sin (Romans 5:12), but of Christ it is written “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”  

Two Witnesses

In the dark night of this fallen world God sent witnesses to His truth, who bore witness of the Light – reflecting the light of God in a dark place. Heralding the coming of Christ into the world, John the Baptist – the last of the prophets - was sent forth from God as a witness, like a “star” in the night sky. But “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light”. John pointed men to the true Light who would follow him; he witnessed to that Light; he pointed to the Light; but he was not that Light. Indeed John said regarding Christ “He must increase, but I must decrease”. See John 3:28-31.

Likewise Moses had been sent into the world and by him the Law of God was given as a witness to the Light which would follow and as a light to reveal the darkness of men’s hearts by exposing and condemning their sin. Moses and the law reflected the light of Christ, but they were not that Light, but bore witness of that Light - they reflected it, as the moon reflects the light of the sun in the darkness of the night. The moon illuminates the night but its light is merely a reflection – a reflection of that light which comes from the sun. In contrast the sun radiates light from itself of an altogether greater brightness than the moon. Despite the light of the moon the sky around it remains dark – the moon can be bright, but not that bright. But when the sun shines everything is lit up!

Moses and John were both witnesses of that Light who would follow them. They mirrored His light, but they had no light in themselves. Moses represented the Law and John the Prophets, God’s two great witnesses which He sent into the world to testify of the coming of Christ and His Gospel.

These lesser lights, these witnesses, point the way to that greater light, Jesus, the Saviour, much as the star in the east led the wise men to where the infant Jesus was that they might worship Him who was born the King of the Jews (Matthew 2). May we be led likewise!

In Romans we read that the law and the prophets witnessed to the Gospel and the revelation (the light) therein of the righteousness of God:-

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:”
Romans 3:20-22      

From these things can be seen something of the meaning of the ‘signs’ of the two great lights which God created. God set the moon to rule over the darkness of the night – to illuminate those things done in the dark. Likewise He gave the law by His servant Moses to rule over the spiritual darkness of men in the ‘night’ and to reveal those deeds done in the dark – “for by the law is the knowledge of sin”. The Law of Moses, the “moon” casts light upon the works of darkness – it exposes them. But still the darkness remains dark. The light of this “moon” is insufficient to cast the darkness away.

But the sun is a picture of a far greater light - a light which completely transcends that of the moon in both brightness and glory. The sun points us to Christ, the true Light, the “Sun of Righteousness”; the One who came to deliver His people from darkness into light. We read of this in the last of the Minor Prophets, Malachi, when he concludes the Old Testament scriptures with that expectant word “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings”. Though another 400 years would pass before Jesus, the true Light and the Saviour of sinners, would be born of the virgin at Bethlehem, yet the prophet wrote by the Spirit in expectation of that great day, when the darkness would be past and the light of the Sun of righteousness would rise up and shine forth unto all those that fear His name and believe on Him for salvation. What a day!  

Two Glories

The two great lights which God created each had a glory. Likewise the Law of Moses was glorious. Moses’ face shone when he came down from the mount holding the tablets of the law. He had been in the presence of God and that glory was reflected in his face. But it was merely reflected. Moses and the law, along with the prophets, bore witness of the true Light, but they were not that Light – Christ was the true Light and His glory far exceeded that of the law.  

“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”
2 Corinthians 3:7-16

Two Realms

The law has its own realm, its own sphere – the night. But when the day comes, when the sun rises over its own realm dispelling all the shadows and lighting up all things under its glorious radiance, warmth and brightness, what need is there of the moon? Its purpose has been fulfilled. When the true Light shines, then no other light is needed. We don’t stand under the light of the moon during the day, but under the sun!

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:22-26

Yes, each light has its own realm – and they don’t mix! The moon rules over the night and the sun rules over the day. Likewise the law was given to rule over the darkness of men’s hearts, to expose sin, to condemn. The moon illuminates the dark – it exposes things done in the dark. But its light is only a reflection of the sun. It has NO LIGHT IN ITSELF. This is just like the law. The law reveals what is done in the dark but sin is only really revealed to us when the Spirit takes the law and applies it – then the commandment ‘comes’ to us in our conscience. As Paul writes in Romans 7:9:  “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” It is then that the law by the Spirit has fulfilled its purpose – having exposed our sin, applied its guilt to our conscience, condemned us and brought us in guilty before God, dead in trespasses and sins.

“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:19-20

But when Christ, the Sun of righteousness arises in our hearts, Oh! What deliverance He brings! How He brings us from darkness into light. How this dispels all the gloom, all the shadows, all the deadness, all the guilt. The light of the Sun shines forth in its beauty, brilliance and radiance. Then the law is done away with just like the moon. The moon is for the night, not the day, its ‘light’ is but a dark shadow when seen against the light of the sun, and it sinks down beneath the horizon as the sun rises to its highest height. When the Light of Christ arises in our hearts then all things are seen clearly, all darkness is past, and all need of the “moon” - the law - to direct our path is gone, for now we have a far exceeding light, the one true Light, Christ, to guide us in our way. Now we walk in the day, not the night, by the light of the Sun, not the Moon, looking unto the Saviour. For God created two great lights, each in their own realm - the moon for the night and the sun for the day. “And God set them in the firmament to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness”.    

From Darkness to Light 

Hence the light is divided from the darkness, and those who walk in the light have passed from darkness into light, and walk by that great light of the day, in the Lord’s day, that day in which Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, has risen to the highest height, having died in the place of sinners, having made an end of transgressions, having taken all His people’s sin and guilt away by shedding his precious blood in their stead, having risen again the third day and then having ascended up on high to sit down at the right hand of the Father ever to reign in glorious light as the risen Son of God – the Sun of Righteousness who arose with healing in his wings. Thus John writes:-

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7

Oh! may all God’s people be brought to see the glorious radiance of the Son, by whose light they walk, and not be tempted to return to the realm of darkness or even to the ‘glory’ of the law which was given as a light in that darkness “for even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.”

What glory there is to be seen in Christ and His Gospel, for He alone is the one true LIGHT. And will the “children of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5) walk by any other light or under any other rule?

May Christ be our all in all!

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
John 1:14:-17